Sam Curran is a weird one. You’d be unlikely to pick him purely as a batsman. You’d be unlikely to pick him purely as a bowler. You wouldn’t pick him he were a right-armer. You wouldn’t pick him if he were a few years older. But there he is – getting picked.
We sometimes wonder whether Curran would get picked now if he hadn’t already played a few Tests as an even younger man. Imagine an uncapped 23-year-old Curran: bats a bit, bowls a bit and has been doing it for enough years that you can be pretty sure you know what he is by now. Does that guy get a game? Maybe he does, but he isn’t afforded quite as generous a perception of his potential as when he was a shiny new 20-year-old.
So Sam Curran is already here and now it is actually quite hard to strike a line through his name because he’s never really going to fail, is he? Because honestly, what would he fail at? Even a king pair doesn’t feel that damning.
The luxury of being a utility cameo player is that you don’t really have many responsibilities. You bat at number eight, you bowl second change. Your runs are seen as a bonus and you aren’t called up to bowl too many overs when conditions aren’t in your favour.
It’s not that we think that Curran is a bad cricketer, because he is fine and committed and possessed of just about the most serious facial expression we’ve ever seen. It’s just that he feels so… hidden.
If a new ball bowler bowls badly, it is very obvious and people are not very understanding about that. If an opening batter goes through a bad run, that too is very obvious and it is a cold and unforgiving place for that player to be.
Sam Curran turns up when people may or may not be properly paying attention. His best efforts catch the eye and draw acclaim. His subpar performances pass largely unnoticed, strong opinions postponed with a, “Well maybe he’ll score a few/chip in with a couple of wickets later in the match.”
A batter who doesn’t score enough runs is not good enough. A bowler who doesn’t take enough wickets is not good enough. How long would a player like Sam Curran have to play before he could so clearly and comprehensively be judged?